A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand February 26th

rand-2016-0129FRANKFORT – When it comes to the public’s safety and well-being, consumer protection may not always grab the headlines, but that doesn’t diminish its importance.

It was the key theme last week in the Kentucky House, which moved forward not one but four bills touching on this issue.

On Tuesday, for example, the House overwhelmingly approved a bill that would regulate ziplines, an increasingly popular recreational activity.  These aerial rides and tours are a fast-growing business, especially in the field of adventure tourism, but there is a need to make sure that all of them meet basic safety standards.  House Bill 38 would do that by putting their regulation under the Department of Agriculture, which has long had oversight of amusement park rides.        

On Friday, the House approved legislation that would restore the legislative intent of a 2012 law designed to protect beneficiaries of life insurance policies.

Four years ago, the General Assembly called on companies issuing these policies to do more to determine if the person who bought them had died.  Many families don’t know a loved one had life insurance, especially if the policy was a relatively small one bought years earlier.

A legal challenge questioned whether this law could be applied retroactively to policies, and the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled that since the General Assembly did not specify that intent, the law could only apply to policies bought after the law went into effect.

The Kentucky Supreme Court was scheduled to hear the case, but Governor Bevin’s administration chose not to pursue it.  Attorney General Andy Beshear is seeking to take over, but in the meantime, House Bill 408 would codify the law’s original intent, making the case moot.   Without this bill, or a favorable court ruling, many families may be denied potentially thousands of dollars they are rightfully owed.

Earlier in the week, the House Licensing and Occupations Committee approved House Bill 366, which would give the Attorney General’s office more authority to go after fly-by-night roofing companies that deceive their customers.  The bill’s sponsor noted that this type of fraud is among the leading complaints the Better Business Bureau receives.

While House Bill 120 is not quite a consumer-protection measure, the House voted 87-3 on Thursday to approve the legislation, which would establish new legal limits for what was undoubtedly one of the more popular Christmas gifts last year: drones.  While they are often viewed as a toy, the reality is that, especially with the higher-end models, drones can be much more.

This bill would establish some reasonable limits and penalties when the drones are used to harass, to improperly spy on others or to help burglars or thieves.  These charges would be in addition to any others that may be brought, but the bill has no impact on otherwise lawful use of drones.

As the General Assembly enters the final third of the legislative session this week, the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee is nearing the end of its review of the governor’s proposed two-year budget.

What we are hearing is serious concern about the negative impact that the recommended 9 percent cut could have on affected agencies.  Chief Justice John Minton said that applying equivalent cuts for the remainder of this fiscal year could cause the courts to close for up to three weeks before the end of June.

Kentucky State University’s president, meanwhile, has warned of potentially drastic measures for his school, and other university presidents noted that their state dollars have already declined by 16 percent since 2008.

While per-pupil funding for elementary and secondary school students would be flat-lined for the next two years, other school programs would be negatively affected as well.  School officials say a cumulative cut of $90 million between now and the end of the next budget cycle would lead to reductions in our family resource and youth services centers; career and technical education programs; school safety; and professional development.

The House is expected to vote on its budget within the next week or two.  The Senate, which has been reviewing the budget as well, will then vote on its version, and leaders from both chambers will work on a compromise that, once it clears the General Assembly, will be sent to the governor toward the end of March.

Many of you have already reached out to let me know your thoughts about the budget or other bills now being considered.  If you have not done that, but would like to, you can reach me by addressing letters to Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or you can email me at Rick.Rand@lrc.ky.gov.           

To leave a message for me or for any legislator by phone, please call 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Paid for by Rick Rand for State Representative, Regina Rand, Treasurer